Treating People With Care At The Core Of du Toit’s Leadership Style

When it comes to successfully navigating the technology industry as a female executive, people have always been at the core for Danielle du Toit, executive vice president, global services at Cheetah Digital, an enterprise cross-channel marketing technology company.  The people she works with have always been a motivation as has been taking on challenges that will make an impact. The contentment and purpose she draws from her career also boil down to people.

“This gives me my greatest sense of joy,” said du Toit in a recent interview with The SaaS Report. “Seeing people realizing that they are capable of more than they ever thought, discovering what they are excellent at, and essentially finding their own version of joy at work. It’s the best thing to watch.”

As the driver of the overall strategy and operating plan for Cheetah Digital’s Global Services business, du Toit has a direct impact on more than 650 people, serving over 32,000 clients across 13 countries. Prior to joining Cheetah Digital, she served in leadership roles at Salesforce, ExactTarget, and Bullhorn.

Du Toit’s upbringing in Zimbabwe had a direct impact on her leadership style. In the 1990s Zimbabwe fell into an economic downturn that forced her and her family to leave. As a result, her immediate family lived all over the world, creating an executive who is highly adaptable to whatever situation she is thrown into and not to mention empathetic to people.  “The whole experience engendered in me a big-picture, global approach that will always serve me in good stead as a leader,” said du Toit. “I was also raised to be very direct, honest, and fair - qualities that I’ve incorporated into my management style. Zimbo’s are warm and down to earth people who have a remarkable work ethic.”

She also credits her leadership style to figuring out along the way what she wanted leadership to mean to her. She drew on the traits of the leaders she admires and made it her job to emulate them. The traits that aren’t effective, she learned early on to avoid. “I’ve seen that saying ‘yes’ to all ideas that come from a company’s leaders doesn’t result in the strongest businesses or the strongest teams, thus I expect and allow people, at every level, to challenge me without fear,” she said.

With so many female leaders to admire, du Toit said she is particularly drawn to the ones who are true to themselves, understand the value of treating people, the most precious asset, with care, can have the ability to see different strengths in different people and can create a team of people and motivate them to do what may seem impossible. So how does she get the most out of the people that work for her?  Du Toit said it really comes down to seeing value in them and actually caring about their plight in life. To do that, she said leaders have to encourage employees to think. “We get stuck thinking that we have to hire the people with the right experience. Often we need to hire people with the right aptitude and right attitude, - because if we do - they will figure it out.” said du Toit. “Give them autonomy to make decisions and solve problems - they will develop a remarkable ability to work through every challenge in front of them.”

Communication is another crucial element of her leadership style. She said communications should be non-stop as should constructive feedback.  Focusing on the strengths of people will enable them to flourish. Same with expectations. Set high ones for team members and trust them and chances are most of the time they will surprise by outperforming. As for what advice she has for aspiring female tech leaders, du Toit said clarity is everything. “Gain clarity on what you love to do, and with what kind of people you love to work. Create that list and continuously fine-tune, or curate, that list. It should be a living list that you nurture over time,” she said. “That way, as opportunities and ideas come up, you’ll know which ones are good for you, and which ones aren’t.”